Closing Thoughts

I think that over the course of this past semester, it would be easy to say that our attempts to define the Black and Green Atlantic could be seen as a journey in and of itself. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of the idea that African American experience could be compared to Irish experience, at first. My first thoughts were that, at best, the comparison would end up being surface-value only; and at worst, that the comparison would be wrong entirely. However, over the past weeks it has been gradually made clear by our examinations of different texts and theory that there is much more in common between the Black and Green than I had ever imagined before.

Beginning with the theory of a Transatlantic identity was essential. The connection of the sea and movement between different cultures acted as a foundation for the beginning of our comparison. The idea that the sea could be basis for a broad identity was confusing at first; but eventually, it began to make sense.¬† Almost every text we have read has had to do with movement or the sea, whether explicitly or implicitly. After we got through this theory, we began with Gulliver’s Travels – a text filled with both identity crises and movement across the sea. I thought that our movement back and forth across the Atlantic (with regard to the texts we read in the order we read them) was a key factor in our eventual understanding of the comparisons between the Black and Green. It allowed us to never linger too long in one spot, in one view. Rather, we were constantly shifting between cultures, which forced us to search for comparisons closer than we might have had there been two separate units of texts. As our list of texts grew, so too did our understanding. The comparisons we were making started moving beyond the obvious, surface-level comparisons between texts; they moved on to the cultures behind the texts, as well. And when we had reached this depthness, we went farther still: from focusing solely on race and oppression, to factoring in economy, the history of each people as “not yet ready”, and the connections that could be made between these concepts. And finally, we ended our semester with An Octoroon. I think it was right to end with this text for many reasons. For one, it gives us a very modern text for us to compare the rest of the texts with (as we had moved through history with those texts, as well). For another, it serves almost as a counterpoint to the first literature we began with, Gulliver’s Travels. But most importantly, it brought together all the concepts and complexities about the Black and Green that we had been examining over the last few weeks, after we reached our understanding of what it could mean. Without the history of the texts we had read, and the meanings that each of those texts gave us, An Octoroon would have been a very strange and confusing play to read.

I think what I most appreciate about having gone through this journey is that I can understand the complexities of a transatlantic world that I never even considered could exist, much less one that does. In our discussions, we’ve made it clear that there are several valid ways in which the Black and Green can be connected to one another. We’ve also seen ways in which it is invalid to compare the Black and the Green, which helped to enlarge our understanding of just where the comparisons can be before they go too far.